Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Four by Four Whatever's Clean Capsule Wardrobe in Black, Beige, Marsala and Natural

As soon as I launched the newest Pantone Spring and Summer 2015 color scheme file (available here), someone asked me to do some work with the color of the year - Marsala. She had honed in on the black and khaki, and after a bit of discussion we agreed that the best 2nd accent color would be an unbleached linen/natural color.  This is the palette we finally chose for a capsule wardrobe.

I started with black, of course! Sleeveless and short-sleeved, cropped pants and "normal" pants, and all from 3.1 Phillip Lim, just for ease of matchy-matchedness.  You can, of course, find your four pieces from a different, less pricey, company, or mix them from a few different places.

Sleeveless top – 3.1 Phillip Lim, cropped trousers – 3.1 Phillip Lim
tee shirt – 3.1 Phillip Lim, trousers - 3.1 Phillip Lim

In fact, in order to find four pieces in khaki, I went to a couple of different sources. Once you've chosen a color scheme, you sometimes have to do some digging, or just be patient, in order to get the items you really want!

Short-sleeved blouse – Uniqlo,  cropped pants – Uniqlo
cardigan – Chinti and Parker, skirt – Celine Vintage

This is the part of this wardrobe that feels particularly summery to me. And a lacy top can be worn with jeans - don't let anybody tell you otherwise!

Crinkled tee – A.P.C., off-white jeans – Uniqlo
sleeveless lace top – Dorothy Perkins, sweat skirtUniqlo

But HERE'S where things got difficult - if Marsala is really the color of the year, it's doing a heck of a time hiding from the general public! I finally remembered that Lands' End always carries a really good assortment that they call burgundy - for school uniforms! But these pieces are as close as I could find to the slightly more brown/less purple Marsala... And one thing you know - these will ALL go together, they aren't going out of style, and they're well made. So if you're interested in this color, try looking for burgundy, maroon, oxblood, dark red...

Tee shirt – Lands’ End, long-sleeved tee – Lands’ End
cardigan – Lands’ End, short-sleeved twill shirt – Lands’ End 

This wardrobe is great for jewelry - just keep thinking "garnet, onyx, pearl, gold" and you're in safe territory. Not too many scarves, this time of year, though...

(note - the Argento Vivo brcelet comes eight colors, including a delicious turquoise and amazing dark silver pyrite)

Cotton striped and checked scarf – Krama Heritage, ruby crystal earrings – YooLa, black crystal 
earrings – H. Azeem, pearl earrings – Militza Ortiz, onyx and mother of pearl bracelet – Frieda 
Rothman,red agate braceletArgento Vivo, Initial disc necklace – Nashelle, pearl necklace – 

These are your sixteen pieces of clothing.  This would make a smashing, simple suitcase, or an easy wardrobe for a summer spent in a location not terribly hot, and where you occasionally are going to dress up. Substitute a pair of shorts for a skirt, or a tank top for a long-sleeved tee, as needed...

I was going to show a handful of outfits with accessories, but I felt strongly that it was important to show the enormous number of possibilities available from just a small selection of well-chosen pieces of clothing. By my calculations, this ensemble should give you at least 100 different options! Add in a black cardigan, a couple of pair of shorts and a tank top or two - you'd be set for the entire summer.

I imagine packing a bag like this and then just taking the train from place to place, all over Europe, from now until the cold weather sets in...



Looking Back:

Neiman Marcus Last Call (Neiman Marcus)


  1. I have been looking for *wine* pieces for ages. The burgundy, while stunning (I do so love anything in that color family paired with khaki!), is on the "blue" side for me. That true wine/marsala color is like Unicorn pee.

    Beautiful collection!

  2. Now there is a saying I have never heard before!! Very apt. Marsala when right is a beautiful colour BUT it can go "off" so easily.

    Deb from Vancouver

  3. Although I don't care to wear that wine shade personally, you've done a great job putting all these elements together, Janice.

  4. Having decided that I would invest in burgundy for the next 3 years, I found the red shoes first, quickly followed by a handbag, ear rings and necklace, then a scarf and a plaid shirt. It's been good that I sew as I then created a beautiful shawl top from some fabric that I purchased years ago for the princely sum of $2 at a fair and I have bought some black and burgundy fabric to make a summer top. It has been challenging to find items that will work together, but I feel pleased with the end result. It has followed the accessories route that you have sometimes demonstrated well Janice, which allows me to participate in this space without investing too heavily in it.

  5. I really enjoy these 4x4 wardrobes. Such great ideas!!

  6. I totally love the Four by Fours. It is what started me reading your blog and how I organize my closet. Thank you! It has simplified my life.

  7. What color shoes/sandals would you recommend? Thanks for these great ideas!

    1. Depending on the balance of the outfit and the weight of the fabric, you could wear shoes or sandals in any of these four colors! Cordovan leather is so beautiful...

      Should I do an update to this wardrobe, with shoes???

  8. It's funny you chose this palette, as I was thinking along those lines this morning... I find it difficult at times to find the right khaki/beige/natural tones, so I've lumped them together as one neutral and grab em where I can find them. I absolutely love this wine colour and am relieved that the marsala is close enough, that I can find it this year in the shops!

    I was thinking of navy instead of black and a golderrod yellow as an accent.

  9. I can't wear beige (it just doesn't work with my coloring), but I love this combination of colors!